Don’t forget the MB Historical Commission
Re “A guide to the world of MB,” (Homepage, September). Congratulations on a most informative and stimulating issue, especially your analyses of RIM (Renewing Identity and Mission) and Celebration 2010. Your list of acronyms is also helpful, but there is a rather curious omission. Perhaps, after 40 years of publishing numerous books and short studies, conducting a variety of conferences, creating and distributing “Profiles,” as well as playing a central role in planning RIM and newly publishing The Mennonite Brethren Church Around the World, the Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission (MBHC) might merit a passing nod.
Evaluating Regenerate 21-01
I was fortunate to be in attendance at the July conference. I thought John Redekop wrote a good report card (Letters, September).
One of the articles in the Herald spoke about Regenerate 21-01 (“Living their history,” September). Our church went through the ReFocusing program in the past year and found it extremely beneficial. The program is very intense. Dave Jackson was our facilitator and he did an excellent job in moving us along, yet giving time for everyone to voice their thoughts and concerns as the group worked through the process. As a result, we are much more focused on outreach. We are implementing the Alpha program, and organizing “bridging events” to introduce people to our church.
I would strongly encourage any church that is struggling with where they are going, or needing to do some refocusing, to contact the Canadian MB Conference and look at the possibility of using the ReFocusing program.
A passing grade to the C2010 report card
I am very much inclined to agree with John Redekop’s evaluation of Celebration 2010 (Letters, September). With the high cost of registration and hotel accommodation, why not encourage families and individuals to host our brothers and sisters from out of town and province, thus building community with our members of common faith? There has been a pattern of dwindling lay involvement at both provincial and Canadian MB Conference levels. The manner in which this very special conference was planned would seem to have accelerated that downward trend – certainly not the intention of the planners.
George H Epp
What a difference from 50 years ago
Re Celebration 2010 (September). In 1960, I was a student at Columbia Bible College. Because my family had participated in numerous church conventions, I had an interest in the workings of the Mennonite Brethren Conference. When the opportunity came to travel with our pastor to the convention in Reedley, Cal., for the 100-year celebration of the denomination, I gladly travelled south. I discovered that I was one of less than 10 young people attending from the Fraser Valley.
A highlight was the fact that I, as a 19-year-old, could be part of all the sessions even though I was not a delegate. This was an open convention: anyone could attend, although only registered delegates could vote. Registration could occur on site (Reedley MB Church). Visitors paid meal costs only. Delegates and visitors were billeted in homes, although some opted to stay in a hotel in the Fresno area.
I sensed a real spirit of “inclusiveness.” Local churches participated by attending, providing volunteers, and promoting the event in Sunday bulletins. Much of the convention work was done by volunteers, giving guests a sense that “we’re all in this together.”
I remember heading back to school all fired up about the work being done around the world and in North America. Since that time I have attended many a convention. One could, in fact, label me a “conference junkie.”
Because of our involvement in various ministries of the MB conference, my wife and I felt we should make an effort to attend Celebration 2010. We informed our church office that we were willing to be delegates.
We drove to the Fraser Valley and attended some family celebrations, with plans to attend some sessions of the convention. We read more information in the MB Herald and realized that we probably had not been registered by our church. We thought that was fine, we would just go to the open sessions, but when we checked, we were informed that registration closed several weeks prior to the convention. We could, if room allowed, come to the few sessions that were open to the public. To attend any of the delegate sessions, we each needed to pay the full convention fee of $379.
What a discouraging predicament. All other conventions had been open; why would this one be different?
We decided to skip. We were frustrated with the process and by the exclusivity demonstrated by the numerous closed sessions. For us, this was just too contrary to the congregational openness of the past.
We decided to check with some friends about the convention. There seemed to be a spirit of “I don’t know, really don’t care” among non-attendees. The prevailing response was, “Convention? What convention?”
What a difference from 50 years ago! What has happened to our “inclusiveness”?
Has the MB conference become the domain of an exclusive group of conference professionals and select leaders? Is this why the conference has difficulty getting volunteers and raising the monies needed to fund the various Canadian projects?
The churches seem to be moving in several directions, mostly in two. One, toward closer Anabaptist identification and two, towards evangelicalism (similar to American evangelicalism). It appears the professional denominational staff continue to assume that all is well, whereas the person in the pew has moved in a totally different direction. If the conference staff go on merrily assuming that things are great, the communication between the head office and the pew will continue to deteriorate, general membership will express a “don’t care about the conference” feeling, and the barrier between the two will eventually lead to a breakdown of the denomination.
Leadership must get the general membership excited again about “doing things together.” This will require focused communication and willingness to get into the churches to promote the work of the MB conference.
We need to pray that the conference may be spared and made anew into a vibrant exciting movement reaching out to all.
Gilbert G. Brandt